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Directed by Phil Austin and Derek Hayes
Produced by Channel 4
Written by Phil Austin and Derek Hayes
Starring Robert Llewellyn
Music by Dirk Higgins
Edited by Lesley Manning
Release date
19 August 1983
Running time
11 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language fictional

Skywhales is a 1983 animated short film that depicts a fictional society of alien creatures dwelling in the atmosphere of a gas giant. The film is notable for the completeness of its depiction of a fictitious society, including alien language, flora, fauna, and social structures and practices.

It was released at the cinema in the United Kingdom in 1984, showing before the film Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is one of a number of animated shorts that feature on the British Animation Collection Volume 1 DVD.


The story concerns a tribal society of mohawked green-skinned creatures who speak in a complex language of hoots. The hoots are not subtitled, leaving the viewer to determine the meaning from visual context alone. They are smart, having a small port with three ships, a small town, clothes, musical instruments and metal weapons and armor. One significant tribal custom introduced early on is the appearance of a subset of the population with dead white skin color and dark black eyes; encountering them causes the people to shield their eyes and let them pass, suggesting an advanced culture. It soon becomes apparent that the society lives in the atmosphere on flying islands, and use pedaled, flying wooden craft to hunt large winged creatures, the skywhales of the title. The creatures have a ship with gas-filled balloons keeping it afloat and it is powered by pedaling turning a propeller. The hunters are totally still as they hear the creature. If the skywhales break their ship, they have special gas-filled parachutes that prevent them from falling as another ship comes to their aid. They hunt by using a harpoon on the underside of their ship, which is driven by one of the natives towards its head. Once the skywhale is impaled, the others use a rope to bring him back. Once they return, the natives use every part of the whales. It seems that either the natives get sick or that they are actually larvae of the skywhale, because after the hunt, they develop pale skin and dark black eyes which as if by instinct go to a building deep in the forest. As a sign of respect, people shield their eyes once they spot one of them. Once inside the building, they stand in front of a giant hole and fall down through the roots of the floating island. Once falling, the natives turn into cocoons and hatch only a few hours later into juvenile skywhales. The floating island resemble intestines by the orange roots coming from the underside. The forest on top is orange and contains strange flora that look like trees. Some giant bags of gas are also present. Their buildings are silver and dome-shaped with other complicated structures. On the inside, cave drawings of skywhales cover the walls and floors(it may be that they believe that they are the spirits of their ancestors which of course is partially true).


The story begins with a man warning the tribe of approaching skywhales. The drummers then warn everybody of the hunt as everyone get prepared to set "sail". Except one man is found in his home sleeping as the noise wake him up. He then gets ready and is about to take his weapon as he hesitates then decides to go. As he leaves his room, his wife and child see him and try stopping him. He goes through the forest with strange fauna and flora and stops at a path as he sees old pale natives head into a strange silver building. As a sign of respect, he shields his eyes as a sign of advanced culture. He is then surprised when his wife pokes him and says that she's coming. As he enters the ship, he sees a native wearing the captain's hat but then he takes his rightful hat while the other looks surprised he came. Then they go on a hunt for the whale where at this point the audience is now aware they live on a floating island high up in a gas giant. They go far away from their home and stop when they hear the whale. Everything is still until a skywhale comes and then destroys one of their ships(the one that has the main character). They parachute down to another ship (the one where the wife is steering) and follow one of the two whales (because one escaped). The main character then harpoons its head (explained above) and is congratulated by his team as they fall down because the whale has 2 harpoons in its head. As it dies they bring it back to their island home where it is completely butchered by nightfall. It then shows the main character and his family at the port where Mom is talking to the son and the main character is tying a rope. Suddenly he turns pale and his eyes black. The Mom immediately recognizes what he has become and adopts the custom of shielding her eyes and his son soon follows. By instinct, the main character heads to the building where all those who reach the point in their life to mature go. In the building, there are four guards and a giant hole in the center. Skywhale drawings are all over the floor. As the guards cover their eyes and the mom and son watch at the doorway, he stands there for a while and then falls in the hole. The son gasps and tries to enter but the mom stops him. He looks confused and as they leave, he asks something to his Mom which then begins to explain something to him. They then show the main character falling through the roots of the island as a cocoon starts forming around his body. By sunrise he is completely enclosed and hatches as a juvenile skywhale. The viewer then sees the mother with the main character's spear explaining something to the son. Suddenly he hears a skywhale's call, takes the spear, and points it to the whale which he immediately recognizes is his dad. The two of them then stand there staring at their dad/husband fly away into the sunrise with the son saluting him with his father's spear. At this point the end credits appear with primitive skywhale cave-drawings in the background.

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